Growing a living privacy fence from is often the cheapest way to create a fence around your property. Plus, they are often more pleasing to the eye than traditional privacy fences. All you need are seeds, water, sunlight, and some TLC. Here are some of the different kinds of living privacy fences you can grow.
The most iconic living fence is the conifer evergreen hedge. The most striking examples can be seen in the European hedge mazes of Villa Pisani and Longleat House. Evergreen hedges have the advantage of staying green all year, even in Northern winters. The most popular conifer varieties are yew, leylandii, and thuja picata.
Non-conifer evergreen hedges are also used. The laurels, viburnum tinus, and boxwood can maintain privacy year-round and can survive at temperatures down to 59°F. Hedge plants like the Californian lilac and rose bushes can be trained for a colorful perimeter. The semi-evergreen privets are a popular choice for low-latitudes. Popular deciduous hedges are beech and hornbeam, but these of course lose their leaves and reduce your privacy in the winter.
Hedge bushes are fast growing and the growth rate is variable between species and climates. A hedge row will take between two and ten years to fully mature at 6 ft. depending on the species. The yew is notoriously slow growing while the privet can grow up to three feet per year. Consider how long you’re willing to wait when choosing your hedge.
An easy, low maintenance way to create a living privacy fence is to plant trees. Italian Cypress, Spartan Juniper, and Pencil Holly are all cultivars bred for a dense growth pattern. Privacy pines can be the quickest and easiest way to create a living fence.
This is an ancient technique of weaving saplings to create a very strong, but visually less dense, hedge. This method requires planting an even row of willow saplings, laying support wires, and pruning off the branches. The young saplings can then be woven, similar to a reed basket, creating a barrier even stronger than picket fences when mature. The cross-hatched base can even be co-planted with curling vines like ivy. This is usually the most labor-intensive fence type and the slowest growing.
Choosing the Right Living Privacy Fence
Striking the balance between growth rate, labor, and aesthetics depends on the each individual; there is no perfect selection, and it’s a matter of taste. Of the scores of plant types available, the climate and soil conditions of each location will help narrow the field. Living fences can range from simple narrow conifers (plant and forget) to intricately manicured topiary in the style of English Gardens. Woven saplings provide a crafty and challenging option for the intrepid gardener but their relatively airy looking and afford less privacy than dense evergreen hedges.